Hedreich Nichols

October 2022

Bias Helped Jeffrey Dahmer Kill

Could bias have been responsible for the Jeffrey Dahmer murders? If you think that sounds a bit like a way out there conspiracy theory, let me help you follow the logic.

Glenda Cleveland was a woman in the neighborhood who, along with her daughters, followed up several times with the police because of suspicious activity surrounding Jeffrey Dahmer’s movements. Without going full blown spoiler alert, I’ll simply say that in one instance, had the police believed her and not Jeffrey Dahmer,  the victim would not have met his death.

All-American Kid

Jeffrey Dahmer was a blonde haired, blue eyed person of middle European descent, and he looked like what in my childhood was known as an “all-American” type. The American predisposition to favor that type of good looks was one part of the bias that allowed him to go undetected for so long. Ever notice how the blonde folks are rarely the bad guys? It’s better now, but for a very long time, blonde/blue was THE Hollywood beauty standard.

Combine that with a conflicted policing history and slow police response time in non-White neighborhoods, and you have a perfect storm, especially for crimes committed against gay people of color in a neighborhood of Black and Brown people.

What if Cleveland had been believed? What if the victim’s family, immigrant, English language learners, had been heard and believed? What if the officers called to serve and protect, thought that marginalized populations held the same value as people who looked like them?

Netflix and Chill with your Halloween Candy

This Halloween, if you are watching something scary, consider watching the Jeffrey Dahmer movie on Netflix. It’s hard to watch, and it’ll take longer than one night. BUT, start, and watch for bias that comes into play. Make a note of moments when you feel the unconscious thoughts of one person affected the life—or death—of another. Then join me on Twitter. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Extend your learning:

Take a Harvard Bias Test

Racial Bias and Disparities in Proactive Policing

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24928.

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Data Driven Equity

Often, when we think of moving the equity needle on our campuses, we talk in terms of implicit bias, diverse representation and personal responsibility. We don’t often connect it to data. Data tells you which teachers are having discipline referral problems within certain populations. Data tells you which teachers are closing gaps for Black and Brown students more quickly. Data tells you which apps are positively impacting intervention and extension for special populations. For example, because ST math is a game based program that requires no language based skills, it works well for ELs and students who are reading below grade level. 

How are we using data to create equitable learning environments? Male students typically have more office referrals. Is it that boys are “bad” or is it that schools have designed a system for sedentary, compliant learning while socializing boys to be anything but sedentary and compliant? 

Using a Strength Based Lens

How do we use the information we have to drive action? First, find out what’s working, and which teachers are succeeding. Use peer observations to build cultural competencies across your campuses and districts. Add accountability discussions and mentoring to learning walks so that you can impact student learning and behavioral outcomes by replicating behaviors and strategies of successful teachers. 

I’ll be talking more to administrators the rest of this year about campus and district equity initiatives, and how to move them from reflection to data driven action. Make sure to recommend SmallBites to your favorite admin team or school board so we can all be better together, one small bite at a time. 

Watch the interview with Dana Cole in its entirety here.

Learn more here:

MacPherson, Kelly-Robin St. John, “Reducing Disproportional Discipline Referrals for African American Male Students at The Elementary Level” (2016). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. Paper 1499449719. http://doi.org/10.21220/W44H2H

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Cultural Appropriation and Halloween

Because it’s time to don costumes and have some fun, I thought it would be a good time to send this friendly public service reminder: culture ≠ costume.

Borrowing the sari, the skull or the sombrero is not the same as wearing a secret service agent suit, a superhero cape or a celebrity gown. Those are examples of cultural appropriation. 

Having a cultural day at school in which students wear culturally inspired clothing in addition to presenting an oral essay and expressing understanding and appreciation for diverse cultures can also be a good thing. That’s cultural appreciation. 

Using Halloween as a day to don the clothing of Hollywood stereotypes is something that we have always done. However, we are only beginning to understand that some of the items we’ve worn have deep historical meaning and context. Headdresses, “Hula girl” outfits and turbans, for example, all have meanings that most of us know nothing about. Wearing those items in a frivolous way shows a lack of respect, even when we don’t mean it.

Think of it like this: wearing a Priest’s cassock or going Trick or Treat with a cross tied to your back would turn heads, and not in a good way. That’s how it should be when we see meaningful cultural symbols being used for costumes.

Learn more.

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SmallBites at Sunset Live on location: The Confederacy, Civil Rights and Student Safety

Happy fall break!! Head over to @Hedreich on Instagram for this week’s live episode. And for context: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/13/hiking-african-american-racism-nature  https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/why-people-color-often-feel-unsafe-outdoors by @amandaemachado0 www.voxmagazine.com/tncms/asset/editorial/11e7709e-74cd-11eb-83b2-8f13b43d6648 And by Emma veidt https://outdoorafro.com/

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At The Intersection of Columbus Day and Hispanic Heritage Month

Listening to a wonderful teacher read the legend of La Llorona to her class on Mexican Independence Day eve, I began to ponder the intersection of Columbus Day and Latinx Heritage Month. There is irony in the fact that we celebrate an explorer who opened the floodgates of Spanish colonization, which essentially meant the downfall of the original inhabitants of the Americas and the Caribbean, the descendents of whom we celebrate this month. 

Armed with that truth, it is fitting that we highlight the societies that were growing and thriving before European contact, especially on holidays when we may not have grown up with the diverse stories that paint a well-rounded picture of historical happenings. Here’s your homework:

Who had dinner with the Pilgrims and what are 5 facts about their way of life? 

Who discovered Columbus shipwrecked on their island?

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights hero, but what were life and death for him like once he started speaking out?

As we near what I now prefer to call Indigenous Peoples Day, let’s get more of the story out there. Telling all the stories is a great way to center narratives that have not traditionally been centered. You’ve got a week to prepare and here are resources. 


And for good measure, the legend of La Llorona

Let me know how it goes!

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